‘When I was running across the country, I was doing 40 or 50 miles a day in sleeting snow with zero visibility for five or six days in a row. Ten to 12 hours of running in that is monotony beyond belief’ – Dean Karnazes
Regular followers will know that my husband Dave is currently training for the EnduRun24 which is a 24 hour Ultra Marathon around Gosforth Park Racecourse. He’s been training seriously since about October 2015 and while training has been going well, and from an outsiders perspective he seems to be much further along in terms of fitness than he was this time before The Wall, that nasty fitness sapper; Christmas has been and gone.
So I’m going to hand you over to Dave to give you an update on how his training’s going:
Since doing The Wall in 2014 I’m never not running to some extent, but the plan I am following now began on 5th October and since then has been fairly flat in terms of mileage. Due to lack and daylight and having a full time job to do, I tend to keep my midweek runs to around an hour in length. I did design the plan so that the “long runs” on the weekends get progressively longer. However, I haven’t actually always stuck to this mainly because of crappy North East weather (we’ve had a particularly wet winter so far!)
The weather is probably the biggest barrier I have to at the moment. Although I have a treadmill I find running on it for more than an hour very boring usually, so my long runs can be effected by bad weather. Although there is only really one weekend where it was too dangerous to run outside due to ice making the ground very slippery. However, to battle high winds, cold temperatures and heavy rain motivation needs to be pretty high and this early in the buildup I have been willing to let those runs go.
As with most runners, there is a constant process of managing niggling injuries, knowing when to push through and when to stop training to avoid further damage. But thankfully, despite the bad weather I’ve been able to avoid any serious injuries. I think that being very consistent about how often I train helps me to avoid anything too serious. By maintaining a reasonable level of base fitness and mileage any ramp up seems to be less of a shock to the system.
In terms of Christmas I had all the best intentions of sticking to my plan although I knew there would be days it wasn’t convenient to do so. Of course the inevitable happened and I ate and drank way more than I should have. There’s always a balance when youre not a professional athlete between training and still having a life, and as far as Christmas was concerned I let my life take over for a few days. I still managed to run a half marathon on Saturday 2nd January and have to keep reminding myself that some people training for months to run a half so my fitness is never as bad as I think it is. I blame Monty for plying me with all his posh whiskey personally.
I do of course plan to get right back into it now all the festivities are done and dusted and my plan for increasing training in the new year is again based around gradually increasing weekend mileage. However, I will need to be a lot more strict in sticking to the plan since now there is a race at the end of it, I don;t have Christmas as the virtual halfway point where I have a bit of a rest to fall back on anymore.
Given that overall, my Wall experience was very positive I’m doing a lot of similar things. However, there has been a little different focus so far in a couple of respects. I’ve been focussing on my weight as a benchmark for how in shape I am, and trying to get control the reduction in the weight via two main tactics. Firstly, while my runs have generally been a little shorter so far than in the past, I have been trying to do some form of exercise almost every day. This is usually running, but also includes playing 5-a-side football where I can or doing core strength exercises when I don’t have time for anything else.
Secondly I’ve been concentrating more on my nutrition, following a fasting diet and avoiding as much as possible the sugary sweets and gels I fuelled with a lot for the Wall. I’m also making other tweaks to try and improve how my body works for training and race day, such as avoiding NSAID painkillers as their not that good for your liver; especially if you’re dehydrated and reducing my regular caffeine intake by about 80%.
I’m confident that going into the new year because I feel I have a reasonable base to work from. I’m expecting that there will be two main things on my mind though as I get started again. The first race I am signed up to includes a lot of hills and the area where I live and train is relatively flat. I’m really even more concerned with the downhill here than the uphill. These will cause major problems with quad muscles that aren’t used to coping with them. Also I don’t like training on hills much so seeking them out will take a real mental effort.
I’m also going to have to battle with the sheer length of the races, particularly the EnduRun24. Although you can easily stop at any time because the race is around a 10k lap, I know that I will not be happy unless I feel I have done as much as possible in the available 24 hours. To get to the start line with a realistic chance of doing that means many monotonous hours of running.
There is also a confidence element, something I have built before by running a high percentage of race day distance in training as you would a half or full marathon. As the distance gets greater this is ever more difficult to achieve. I’ll be relying on the assembly of Team Vague (my support crew made up of Friends and Family for the Wall) to help with the cheerleadering again.
Of course invariably my biggest obstacle could well be something I haven’t thought of yet which derails my preparations. The thing that springs to mind as a barrier to race day, is other races. This is the first time I have had in my mind a season of three races to complete, rather than a single event. Even the first of these is 100K in length. If recovery takes too long, then I will struggle to improve again before the next even longer race is due. Thankfully there is then a longer break until my potential season finale (EnduRun24) but staying injury free will be crucial.